Oil-holics Anonymous

By Erika Villani

IF “AMERICA IS ADDICTED TO OIL,” as President Bush declared in his 2006 State of the Union address, then Sweden is already in rehab. This country of 9 million residents has outlined a plan to become the world’s first oil-free economy by the year 2020, trading gasoline for ethanol, investing in geothermal district heating and offering tax breaks and other perks to citizens who make eco-friendly choices. (In some cities, there will be free parking for hybrids.) So what can the United States, with almost twice the per capita oil consumption, do to follow suit?

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has outlined a plan to take America oil free—and, much like the Swedish plan, it involves a mixture of switching to ethanol and other alternative fuels, along with offering incentives for eco-friendliness. It also requires us to invest in the research and development of biofuels. According to the NRDC, it would cost $200 million per year over the next 10 years to make biofuels competitive with gasoline—currently, we’re falling far short of that goal. Despite his State of the Union assertions, Bush slashed the Department of Energy’s renewable energy and energy efficiency budgets by almost $50 million, allotting a piddling $72,164 to the biomass/biofuels program in 2006.

But it’s not all bad news. The Senate is already mulling over the Vehicle and Fuel Choices for American Security Act, which would decrease U.S. oil consumption by 105 million gallons a day by offering various incentives to both consumers and the automotive industry. That’s enough to make an enormous global impact. According to Daniel Becker, director of the Sierra Club’s global warming program, we produce 20 pounds of carbon dioxide for every gallon of gas we burn—so if the act is passed, that means we’d be saving 2 billion pounds of pollution per day. And hearing alternative energy addressed in a State of the Union speech itself is encouraging—after all, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.

Issue 25

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